How to Start a Change Journey in Your Company
If you are a business leader who sees the need for your organization to undergo a significant change in the way you operate, whether it is structural, cultural, and/or operational, and whether it is driven by competitive pressure, regulatory pressure, and/or shareholder pressure, there are three questions that you’ll need to ask yourself, and you’ll need to come up with pretty good answers for them, before you begin your change journey. The first question is “Where do we need to get to?”. The second question is “Why do we need to get there?”, and the third is “Why would anyone else want to come along?”.
The first question focuses on the Vision for your organization’s future. As the old phrase goes – if you don’t know where you’re going, it’s hard to know when you get there. It goes without saying that there must be a clear picture of the destination – of what winning looks like – that can be your guide as you make the myriad of decisions required to move your organization in a new direction. It also goes without saying that there should be an accompanying justification for the journey. What are the long-term benefits to the organization, the shareholders, the employees, the customers – and yes, to you personally – if the journey is successful? Why is not acceptable to stay where we are?
But it’s that third question that poses the real challenge, because in it is the key to whether the journey will be successful, and sustainable, over time. Senior managers speak a different language from the middle and front line supervision, and their many non-supervisory employees. They will be the ones experiencing the change journey at the knife’s edge. The success, and sustainability of the journey hinges on whether they choose to get on board, and embrace the many things that they will be asked to do differently. Their resistance to change, driven by fear, uncertainty, or just a plain old unwillingness to give up their current “comfort zone”, can derail even the best planned journey of change.
Senior leaders need to translate the executive’s language of change into words and experiences that everyone can understand, and buy into. Questions 1 and 2 set the table for Question 3, but this isn’t baseball where getting 2 out of 3 is a great batting average. Leaders need to hit a thousand to begin their journey of change. Which brings us to the bonus question – “Are you ready, willing, and able to do the things that need to be done”?
Martin Thompson is a Client Partner at Evolve Partners. In his 27 years as a consultant, he has been a part of helping many clients achieve results that last, in a way that also builds their capabilities and ownership of the changes. He provides clients at all levels with valuable insights that help them navigate their way through the "breadth and depth" of operational improvement and organizational transformation.